Lekki building collapse and the audacity of impunity

The site of the collapsed building PHOTO: Bertram Nwannekanma

The site of the collapsed building PHOTO: Bertram Nwannekanma

As at the last count, death toll in the recent building collapse incidence involving a five-storey building under construction in Lekki, Lagos, was 34 while 13 people were rescued after rescue efforts had reached ground zero. The episode of the collapsed five-storey building of 12 blocks of flats at Lekki represents yet another case of needless loss of precious human lives in our clime. It is simply a case of one building collapse too many. Despite Nigeria being a country where essential and accurate statistics is hard to come by, one cannot but notice the countless numbers of untimely but avoidable deaths and bodily injuries that has plagued our society over the years in avoidable circumstances.

Of late, the trend of building collapse in Nigeria and particularly in Lagos is becoming quite alarming. Sometimes last year, a failed building belonging to a famous church in Lagos collapsed, leading to the death of many people. It has now become part of our daily routine to hear sad tales of collapse buildings with the attendant loss of lives and properties, injuries, structural and collateral damages to other properties as well as public infrastructures. Though cases of building collapse is not peculiar to Nigeria, as it happens all over the World, but the trend here is becoming quite worrisome and a source of concern to all stakeholders.

Over the years, the familiar pattern, especially with regards to building collapse in Lagos smacks of impunity, impiety and sheer arrogance. What we have in Lagos is the usual Nigerian style of circumventing the laws. It is no longer news that, Nigeria is a place where illegality thrives, people build structures without approve plan, building permit and other necessary authorisations, while estates spring up without approve layout plan. It is estimated that more than 60% of structures across the country falls within these categories.

Worse still and, perhaps, rather bothersome is that whenever the appropriate authorities attempt to ensure strict compliance to the rules by either sealing up an illegal building , those concerned often disregard such move by simply continuing with the process as if nothing has happened. In some cases, they could even resort to awkward actions such as beating up regulatory officials. The latest building collapse episode at Lekki, Lagos, is a classical example of how acts of brazen impunity by a few unscrupulous individuals could actually cause havoc to a whole lot of lives. In an official statement released by the Lagos State Government after the ugly incidence, it was revealed that promoters of the collapsed building were served contravention notice for exceeding the approved floors and thereafter the building was sealed by officials of the Lagos State Building Control Agency. It equally added that in a shameless act of impertinence and utmost impunity, the proprietors of the building, Messrs Lekki Worldwide Estate Limited, the promoters of Lekki Gardens, illegally unsealed the property and continued building beyond the approved floors until the ill-fated event.

The Lagos state government’s claim that the promoters of the building disregarded official directives to stay action on the project, having been found to have contravened building regulations, was corroborated by the staff of the organization who alleged that there was never a time that they stopped working on the building. They simply carried on as if the orders coming from the regulatory agency were meant for the marines. It is the kind of impunity on display by the promoters of the Lekki collapsed building that has turned our country into a jungle where anything goes. The sad reality of our country is that impunity has become part and parcel of us.

Going forward, the appropriate authorities responsible for building approval and allied matters must ensure that the rules are strictly adhered to at every stage of the process. It has, for instance, been alleged that some of the materials used for the collapsed building, especially iron rods and blocks were substandard. This, of course, amply illustrates the complicity theory of regulatory officials who ought to have subject ted such materials to necessary integrity tests. Experts have, indeed, revealed that in Lagos, many developers build without appropriate monitoring from necessary quarters. This should not be allowed to continue.

Any society that is built on the sort impunity that we experience in our clime will continue to bear the brunt. The sad thing now is that impunity is on display in almost every segment of our society. Pay a visit to government hospitals, where government spend a fortune to put in the right equipment and ensure the well being of medical workers, you will be amazed at the attitude of the workers there. On the roads, the situation is not different. Everybody drives as if there are no rules governing traffic. Operators of the informal sector are not exempted from this culture of madness! If you have ever given your car to a mechanic to fix or you have had course to deal with plumbers, electricians, carpenters etc you will appreciate the resourcefulness of the average Nigerian in cutting corners!

There is no point in passing the buck. We should stop the blaming game. If we are to fulfil our potentials as a nation, we have to collectively change our orientation. We have to change our value system. To begin with, those who willingly circumvent the laws of the land should be brought to book by the spirit of the law. What it takes for evil to gain a stronghold in any society is for evil to continually go unpunished. It is in the light of this that one welcomes the news that the promoters of the failed Lekki building and their collaborators are already being prosecuted. They should be made to pay the ultimate penalty as stipulated by the law. They should face the music for their careless conducts. This time around, the case must not be swept under the carpet. This is the only way we can move forward as a people. We cannot continue to lose human lives in such unnecessary circumstances. The human life is too precious to be wasted through the sloppy conducts of a few irreverent people. Enough is enough!
Omojoye wrote in from Palmgroove, Lagos

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1 Comment
  • Evans

    If I buy a car and it malfunctions due to manufacturer error, who should face the music? It is I who paid for the car or the engineering company who know how to build cars?